Jan 292012
Authors: Andrew Carrera

Read CSU President Tony Frank’s emails and look at your rising tuition rates, and you’ll know the university’s short on funds.

But walk around campus and observe the $111,400,000 in renovations and building projects taking place, and that fact might not seem so obvious.

If the money were divided among the campus’s 26,735 students, each individual would receive $4,166.82. The amount would cover 66 percent of resident undergraduates’ tuition, which is $6,307.

Rachel Roberson, vice president of the Associated Students of CSU, sees the combination of rising tuition and starting new building projects as a sign that the university may not have its priorities in order.

“I understand that we want to be competitive on the national scale. I understand that we want the students who are here and who are able to afford it to have value to their degrees. However, our mission statement has ‘access’ in it. And if we’re no longer able to provide access to the students within the state, to the students nationwide, there’s no reason for us to be here,” she said. “We’re not selling the product that we’re claiming to be selling.”

In her conversations with other students, the common theme is a sense of confusion at CSU’s current financial situation. They see their tuition increase 20 percent in 2011-2012, 9 percent in 2012-2013 and talk of a new $100-200 million on-campus-stadium building project.

“If students can’t afford to go to higher education any longer, that’s null and void,” she said.

So where is CSU getting the money for campus construction?

The answer: largely not from tuition dollars.

“A very small amount of the major projects on campus are being funded with central university dollars, meaning state funds and tuition dollars. The Braiden and Parmelee projects and the Lory Student Center renovation are self-funded –– revenues generated by those facilities will pay for the cost of construction,” said Amy Parsons, vice president for university operations at CSU in an email to the Collegian.

Classroom upgrades, much of the Engineering II Building and the Morgan Library expansion are paid for by the facility fee students pay if they’re taking 12 credits or more. Student groups that control how this money is used –– including the University Facility Fee Advisory Board, ASCSU and the Student Fee Review Board –– voted to approve these projects.

“The University Facility Fee was approved by ASCSU in 2005 to address the downturn in state funding that resulted in a reduction of funds to higher education for capital construction and improvement projects,” said UFFAB chairwoman Tamla Blunt, a Ph.D. candidate in bioagricultural sciences in an email to the Collegian. “The University Facility Fee is a fixed fee that has nothing to do with rising tuition.”

If the money generated by the facility fee comes up short, the rest is paid for by donations to the university. Engineering II, for example, is primarily donor-funded.

How can CSU have money for buildings but not students’ tuition?

The university’s tuition rates are controlled largely by the number of dollars its general fund has, which is determined by how much Colorado’s state government gives in a given fiscal year.

That amount has decreased steadily since 2008. In 2012-2013, state funding to colleges and universities will be cut by 5.7 percent, as approved by the Colorado Commission on Higher Education.

Gov. John Hickenlooper announced last year a $100 million cut to state higher education spending.

“Colorado is the least funded in terms of higher ed in the country,” Parsons said.

The situation has left university officials with a more than $12 million shortfall to compensate for in order to balance the budget, leading to tuition hikes and other budget-saving measures.

Can’t CSU fundraise to lower tuition?

It’s not that simple, Parsons said.

“If a donor gives 20 million dollars to the College of Engineering, we’re able to build a building with that,” she explained. “That’s a one-time donation to do a specific thing, whereas if somebody gave us a million to fund faculty salaries, you can’t base-fund a position on that because you pay it every year going forward.”

Where big donations do help, however, is supplying scholarships and financial aid to students. Parsons has pledged $10,000 herself to a College of Liberal Arts student to help further their education.

Financial aid, she added, has been heavily invested in by CSU and is not being cut to fund campus-construction projects.

Do students know this?

Despite her criticisms of the university, Vice President Roberson doesn’t fault CSU officials entirely for hiking tuition rates and spiking campus construction.

“I’d love to be able to blame Colorado State for all of these issues. And again, a lot of it is the fact that we don’t have our priorities in order for today,” she said. “But a lot of it comes back to where state funding is. And higher education is the first one to cut, but not the first one to replenish.”

Senior Reporter Andrew Carrera can be reached at news@collegian.com.

Campus construction projects:

Classroom upgrades
Total budget: $10,000,000
Funding sources: Student Facility Fee and General Fund

Engineering II
Total budget: $58,000,000
Funding sources: Student Facility Fee, Research Overhead and remaining funds from grants and donations.

Braiden and Parmelee Halls fourth-floor addition
Total budget: $26,000,000
Funding source: Housing and Dining Services self-generated money

Morgan Library Expansion
Total budget: $16,800,000
Funding source: Student Facility Fee

Lory Student Center Theater Renovation
Total budget: $6,000,000
Funding source: Student Center Fees

Combined budget: $111,400,000

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